Kindergarten Cop (1990)

kindergartencop_1Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Penelope Ann Miller, Pamela Reed, Linda Hunt, Richard Tyson, Carroll Baker, Cathy Moriarty, Joseph Cousins, Christian Cousins

Directed by Ivan Reitman

Expectations: I don’t know. I hope I like it.

threehalfstar


Kindergarten Cop seems to be one of the more popular Arnold films among his mainstream fans, but I never really liked it. Well, to be honest I never gave it much of a chance. I only saw it once, and I was only around 9 or 10 years old. At that point in my life, I only wanted to see Arnold kick ass and take names. Anyone who’s seen Kindergarten Cop can tell you that Arnold doesn’t really do a lot of that in the film. This one is a completely different beast, but seeing it again as an adult has allowed me to see why everyone seems to love it. Or, if nothing else, it has allowed me to see why I love it. I can’t speak for everyone, after all.

Kindergarten Cop does a great job of transitioning Arnold from the hard-edged action character to the caring teacher. The film opens with Arnold looking scruffy and intimidating as he tracks a criminal through a crowded California mall. Later we see him infiltrate some back alley drug den where he smashes guys into the wall and nonchalantly knocks a guy through a glass coffee table. He doesn’t kill anyone because it’s a PG-13 movie, but man do they take some hard hits. His character, John Kimble, doesn’t bat an eye because this is the over-the-top action world he works within. But it’s not just the character of John Kimble, it’s also the world that Arnold has consistently inhabited for our entertainment. Over the course of the movie, our muscular, solve-everything-with-his-fists hero must face an enemy that he can’t use any of his usual tactics on. This, of course, is the class of kindergarteners.

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Giant (1956)

giant_6Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Carroll Baker, Jane Withers, Chill Wills, Mercedes McCambridge, Dennis Hopper, Sal Mineo, Rod Taylor, Judith Evelyn, Earl Holliman, Robert Nichols

Directed by George Stevens

Expectations: Low.

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Giant is a Texas-themed soap opera about a cattle rancher named Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) who marries a Virginian girl named Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) while he’s in town buying a horse from Leslie’s father. When they return as husband and wife to Bick’s ranch Reata, Leslie doesn’t quite fit in with all the Texas bigots. This, surprisingly, becomes an overarching theme of the film, but you’ve gotta sit through a whole lot of Texas-sized movie before it ever pays off. And — spoiler alert — even that payoff is less satisfying than I’d have liked it to be. In a film this long (201 minutes!), is it too much to ask that we actually build toward something worth waiting for? I guess if I was a hard-hearted racist jerk, it’d take almost 3½ hours to get me to understand why the film ends as it does, but I was already on-board right from the get-go.

What’s strange about the length of Giant is that it’s an epic unconcerned with being epic. There are moments when it slips into epic mode, but for the most part it’s a fairly straightforward chronicle of 30–40 years in the Benedict family’s lives. So why is it as long as it is? The answer lies within the familial relationships of the Benedict family. Allowed extra space to breathe, Giant presents more nuanced and layered relationships than are usually seen in films — especially one from the ’50s. But even with its extended length, it still feels like it’s breezing through the years and could have easily been longer if it wanted to be.

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